University of York Graduate, aspiring to be a journalist with dreams of one day publishing my own novel.
Published work can be seen at www.theyorker.co.uk and www.yorkvision.co.uk
Old Franky may have crooned about the city that never sleeps, but he neglected to mention that for us Brits it comes with a hefty price tag! To keep your wallet nice and plump on your travels, keep these money-scrimping tips in mind.
1) Be in the know - particularly about taxes. In the US, sales tax is applied at the till, so you may think you're paying what it says on the price tag, but it will almost always have an added tax value. For reference, New York has an average sales tax of 7%.
2) Avoid street vendors - they may ply you with their New York charm and feign interest in your life story, but in reality, all they want is your money. Ask yourself- do you really need a Louis Vuitton knock off that fell of the back of a van? Assertiveness is key.
3) Eat on a budget - the aforementioned sales tax can be a killer when it comes to paying restaurant bills. Cheaper eateries such as Sbarro, two of which can be found directly on Times Square, let you know exactly what you're paying for by charging $7.99 per lb of their delectable Italian buffet- the only guilt you should feel is when it comes to weighing your food.
4) Know your tips - if you can resist the charms of cheap Italian food sans waiters, then make sure you're savvy with the tipping system in the US. It's not uncommon for waiting staff to present you with the cheque with a tipping guide- that's right, a guide to how much you should tip, categorised into 'standard', 'good' or 'great' service, suggesting a 10, 15 or 20% tip accordingly. If you don't want to spend half your evening appraising your waiter however, a general rule of thumb is to tip twice the sales tax, which is clearly printed on your bill.
5) Don't drink for sport - talking of pricy food and drink, at all costs, do not go to a ball game thirsty- a 700ml bottle of water at the Yankees Stadium will set you back $5, whereas a modest pint will drain you of a not-so-modest $11! Lucky for you there is a McDonalds right outside, so you can quench your thirst and save your bucks.
6) See a Broadway show for less - while it may be tempting to buy tickets to the theatre off any old passer-by in the street, wiser tourists can get reduced theatre tickets in the heart of Times Square, at TICKTS, a reduced-priced theatre ticket vendor based within a large red staircase. Typically, better quality seats are sold with an average 40% reduction depending on the time of the show. If you're not too fussy about having front-row seats however, you can do worse than bartering with the vendors in the theatres themselves, who, after a little haggling, will be only too happy to sell you tickets in the mezzanine.
7) Make the most of donations - fancy yourself as a bit of a science buff? The American Museum of Natural History, located on the Upper West Side, will try and tempt you with ticket machines without queues which will charge a 'suggested donation' of $19. If you're willing to queue, however, you can pay as much as you like by talking to a human being, so a ticket covering solely the free exhibits in the museum can cost you as much or as little as want- depending how much shame you have.
8) Milk the Wifi - if you can't resist tweeting a photo of yourself every time you pass a new landmark, be sure not to get caught out on data roaming charges. Typically your phone provider will warn you of the charges (for reference, O2 charge £6 per mb) and turn your 3G off- so make the most of the free wifi, which can be accessed without a password on Times Square, or better still, at all Starbucks branches (which is handy as you're never more than a street away from one!)
9) Invest in a Metro Card - getting around New York is cheap and easy by using the underground subway network, but you can save time and money by purchasing a Metro card, similar to an Oyster card, which you can simply reload before making journeys. Not only does it save you money (a single ticket will cost you $2.50 whereas a Metro single will cost $2.25) but many station entrances are restricted to Metro passes only, so you'll save time too.
10) Use your legs - The most cost effective way of getting around New York City is the simplest- walk. Maps are easy to read as the city is built based on a simple numbered grid system, and thus most tourist attractions are only a few blocks (streets to you and me) away from each other. Plus there's so much more to see when you're walking above ground.